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Consumers are increasingly using the internet to find the products or services they need. Well over 50% of consumers shop online for a majority of their needs. In fact, industry experts have shown upwards of 80% of consumers now prefer to shop online or search for local service providers online.

I’m going to say that again, just so it sinks in… 80% of consumers prefer to shop and search online.

This shift or continued trend in consumer behavior speaks volumes for businesses who have yet to identify their target market in order to promote their products or services online.

Let’s face it folks, the internet is here and it is not going anywhere. Either embrace it, cultivate it, and grow your online presence or be prepared to fail. That is the truth and if you are in denial about how vital online marketing should be, maybe it’s time you really think about missed opportunities and how that can destroy your company’s growth and revenue.

Understanding online marketing and all the different channels of marketing from direct website traffic to social media marketing, paid search advertising, and search engine optimization is certainly a challenge and overwhelming but it does not have to be. Most business owners are too busy to really sink their teeth into learning anything new or take much time at all to work on their own business (since the majority of you are customer-focused… external not internal). My advice to anyone who is tentative about dipping their toe into online marketing would be: start small… start with what you know and build from there.

As the owner of your business, no one knows your business and its products and services better than you do. Therefore, when taking your first steps towards online marketing, you must first identify your target market(s).

Learning how to identify your target audience is not something all business owners take the time to do and you would be surprised how your target audience for online marketing might be very different from your other traditional groups of customers. Identifying these groups will enable you to:

  • Assess demand for your product or service in the online market
  • Modify your brand to ensure it meets the consumers’ needs better and is positioned for future growth (as the majority of your future consumers will be online-based)
  • Develop marketing campaigns focused on these specific markets

Identifying your target market can help you tailor content such as paid advertising, social media, photos, video, podcasts, and other rich media as well as determine the type of online marketing methods that may benefit the business.

I spend a lot of time working with customers who simply do not have the time to dedicate to this endeavor themselves. You might be new at reaching out to others to help shape your business, but look into hiring a marketing consultant. Whomever that person ends up being it might just be the best investment you make in your business! I offer this one-on-one service at an affordable price and it has saved many business owners a great deal of time trying to come up with a relevant plan of action themselves. You are new at this… why not get a professional’s guidance to make sure you are not overlooking missed opportunities or speculating when you could be taking action based on solid facts?

Before identifying your niche markets, ask yourself these questions:

  • To whom are you selling your product?
  • Are these your most profitable target groups? If so, why? Why not?
  • What are their needs and why does your product appeal to them?
  • What specific products are you selling? (some businesses have a hard time answering that, can you believe it?)
  • What makes your product unique?

These questions will help you identify exactly who you are selling to and why.

To further expound upon these questions we have an easy to follow 5 step process that can help you shape your target market, identify your ideal customer, locate where to market to them, and evaluate your results and data to continually improve your online marketing efforts.

5 Easy Steps to Identifying Your Target Market for Online Marketing

defining your target marketsStep 1 – Defining Your Target Market(s)

The first step to online marketing is defining to whom you market your products. Identify different groups within your current customers with similar characteristics. Try to create market segments, which might be smaller unique groups within a larger group. For example, your target group might be ‘mothers’ but within this group you can segment into: mothers with multiple children, single mothers, mothers under 30, and mothers of households with a median income of at least 75k.

Creating market segments can help you not only identify specific groups of customers within a larger group but can also help you find new relationships between your products and services. Continuing with our previous example, perhaps your business sells a wide array of clothing. By identifying a specific market segment of mothers under 30 (who are traditionally lower income) you realize that both your athletic shoes for ages 7-8 and sports jerseys for kids are big sellers within this group. Based on these findings it would be easy to create a ‘package deal’ that would offer bundled savings and appeal directly to this group. Or perhaps by realizing that two of your segments single mothers and mothers with multiple children overlap significantly this can help you identify both groups as prime candidates for a new line of ‘set it and forget it products’ ideal for the parent who has to juggle many responsibilities at one time.

In most cases buyers are often segmented into these basic groups: income, age, and gender. Segmenting can open your eyes to the various groups you might want to target and will help you discover important similarities and differences that exist among these groups. Paying attention to where the groups intersect and overlap can help you find your ‘pockets of maximum profitability.’

Ultimately and if nothing else, establishing your target markets and their respective segmentations will lead to a much clearer understanding of your brand, who it appeals to, and why.

researching your target marketsStep 2 – Researching Your Target Market(s)

Market research will help you understand your target consumer’s needs, spending habits and their tastes. However, identifying the target group without understanding why they are a group you should pursue would prove futile.

There are many available sources which can help you acquire information about your target audience and even your competitors such as internet based searches, conducting surveys, focus groups, hiring a research company that specializes in your industry or a consultant, listening and following market leaders using social media and many more.

Take advantage of the various keyword research tools available to you online which can help you learn more about what your target market is interested in and more importantly, the searches they perform to find more information on those interests.

Some common (FREE) keyword research tools are:

  • Google’s Keyword Planner: you must sign up for AdWords to use it but it is still free
  • YouTube’s Keyword Tool: 2nd largest search engine believe it or not
  • Twitter: pop a keyword phrase into the search box and you’ll see just what people are saying about that topic in real-time
  • Examine Website Source Code: go to any competitor’s website, right click on the page and click ‘view source code’ and near the top of the code you find Meta Keywords. You should optimize for the keywords you find relevant to your business as well.

Doing thorough market research will help you understand your potential consumers and what ails them which will help you gain a competitive edge.

creating a consumer profileStep 3 – Developing a Consumer Profile

After researching your potential consumers, the next step is creating a consumer profile, which means creating an actual in-depth description of your typical customer, including demographic information such as gender, age, location, income and much more.

You should also include psychographic information as part of your profile. This data will include potential customer’s buying behavior, lifestyle, tastes, values, and more.

Creating a detailed consumer profile helps you identify which consumers are more likely to be responsive to your brand and provides a more accurate prediction of their buying behaviors. For example, wouldn’t it be great to know that mothers with multiple children spend 3x as much as any other target group in the month of August? What would you do to generate more interest from this group based on that information? How would that affect what products you offer during the month of August?

evaluating your customer behaviorStep 4 – Finding and Evaluating Your Customers

While identifying your customers might prove to be a challenge you are not done yet! Next you need to figure out where your online customers are spending their time. Are they on social media? Are they on niche sites, blogs, or forums? Are they on specific e-commerce websites?

You need to get your marketing message directly in front of them. Find out which social media networks they frequent, which websites they visit, the apps they are using, etc. If you want to know how to sell to your online market, you need to know where your audience hangs out most and how they use technology such as social media, publications, and blogs to communicate and interact.

The internet is a place of comfort for many consumers. They are creatures of habit and like-minded individuals tend to behave similarly online. Therefore, if you pay attention to where they are going and what they are up to when they get there, you can formulate a plan to get your brand in front of them in a way they are most familiar and would be willing to engage with.

You can use free resources to help evaluate your customer’s needs. Social media is a perfect marketing research tool for getting real-time feedback in your target markets. Spending some time on your competitor’s social pages will help you learn a lot about how they market to their customers, the messages they convey, and how their followers respond. Take the good with the bad because you certainly do not want to follow in your competitor’s footsteps if their delivery method or marketing message is poorly done or poorly received. Always ask yourself, ‘What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong?’

As mentioned above, Twitter is a great tool for performing a keyword search. It can show you how relevant a certain topic, product, or service might be on any given day and how those individuals feel about it. You can also search “hashtags” on a variety of social platforms such as Google+, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter which will help you see more relevant posts about those products, services, and topics as well. Each social service handles hashtags differently so make sure to research across all networks.

Monitoring your marketing dataStep 5 – Monitoring Your Progress

Identifying your market, the consumers within it, as well as finding ways to reach them are the backbone of online marketing. However, equally as important and often overlooked, is monitoring and evaluating the performance of online. Why put in all the effort if you do not take the time to monitor the results?

One of the best features of online marketing is, you can track every single action a user takes across your online marketing platforms. By collecting just a few months’ worth of data you can easily see what is working and what is not working with your online efforts. You can not only track the traffic and activity to your brand through your website and social media, but you can also track specific conversions and goals which will help you determine if your online marketing is as effective as it could be. For example, if you want to know how many times visitors make it to a particular product page

Tracking the behaviors of your customers is equally as important because as their tastes change you will need to adjust your marketing efforts to accommodate their needs. The data provided to you by numerous analytical platforms can get as granular as you need it to or remain broad and generalized if you prefer to look at larger groups rather than smaller pockets of your visitors.

If you are unsure of what type of data you want to track or need to track we highly recommend you start with Google Analytics. First of all, its FREE and easy to install. It is highly adaptive and comprehensive and collects the majority of data you will need to make marketing decisions moving forward. There are a ton of other analytical software platforms out there, many of which appeal to certain industries or business types. Do your research and find the one that makes the most sense for you.

Do your best to continually perform market research, stay current, and grow with the industry trends and your consumer’s needs. Before you launch any online marketing campaign, you should already know how you are going to track sales, communicate with your consumers and get ongoing feedback.

Keeping up with your consumers’ current needs will help you identify their preferences, spending or behavior patterns, and areas you must improve upon. Managing this valuable marketing data can often guide you on how to adjust your marketing, products, and services before they become obsolete and to better cater to upcoming consumer demands. This will help you continue to improve your online marketing efforts as the business grows.

Why Identifying a Target Audience is Essential to Online Sales

Marketing your brand online is going to be a necessity very soon if it is not already. If you are sitting there wondering where your business has run off to, you are already behind and it is time to get with the program.

Getting started now will certainly help you target a larger audience and keep you ahead of, or in pace with, your competitors. The world is getting flatter and the economy is globalizing at a remarkable rate. You must see the bigger picture and embrace it to continue to grow and expand your reach. You are no longer just dealing with your competitor down the street but with companies across the state, country, or even the globe.

As with any form of marketing, not all consumers will be responsive to your business model or what you offer so identifying the right audience will save time, effort, and considerable costs spent marketing to the wrong people. Online marketing is hands down the most effective marketing tool out there when it comes to focusing on specific market segments. Take the time to identify those groups, make sure your product is appropriate and of high quality, and you will be successful in your efforts.

Always remember, marketing is an evolving, living and breathing entity that will require ongoing cultivation, research, and maintenance if you plan to compete, stay relevant, and attract the best possible consumer groups possible for your business. There is no better way to increase the success and bottom line for your business than responsible, tactical, and targeted online marketing!

If you are interested in learning more about identifying your target market and segmented consumer groups or simply do not have the time to take this on yourself, reach out to us anytime. We work with many businesses who need marketing help from the ground up and do not have the time to construct an online marketing plan or do any kind of target market research themselves. If you’d like we can discuss your needs in greater detail through a free one-hour phone call and screenshare assessment to talk about whats working for you, what isn’t, and how to maximize your online marketing efforts.

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci is a Small Business Consultant and Strategic Branding Specialist. He calls Monterey, CA home and is a life-long musician who spends his free time writing, composing, and producing music. He has also co-authored two books, and is working on his own upcoming book titled, “Small Business Pricing Mastery – Creating effective pricing and defining value for today’s products and services.”

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